NORDONIA HILLS — The common image of a student in a school is one of a pupil sitting at a desk and studying lessons in a textbook.
However, that image now could also include students interacting with one another as they figure out how to program a robot, how to design items to be printed on a 3D printer, or how to make crafts using materials such as duct tape.
Matt Gaugler, business director for the district, said the idea to enhance such programming came two years ago at a professional development workshop he was sent to by Superintendent Joe Clark.
“We got a lot of inspiration in what a couple of other districts were doing with their makerspaces,” Gaugler said. “We wanted to bring that here.”
Gaugler said that makerspaces are becoming more common in schools, especially as educators find ways to tie them into the curriculum.
“Before, districts really struggled getting money for this because it was seen as indoor recess,” Gaugler said. “Now it’s much easier to get funding.”
Indeed, the district’s five-year plan is to fully incorporate makerspaces into the curriculum, Gaugler said, noting that in some cases, they are bringing back elements of home economics instruction.
One of several district schools that created makerspaces for students, Northfield Elementary received its start from a boost from Akron’s STEM program, Gaugler said. He added that hopefully this creative space, which can teach anything from technology to hands-on building, will be enhanced and spread throughout the district. The spaces also can vary wildly from one school to another, and one district from another.
“It looks almost like a shop,” Gaugler said. “Some districts don’t want power tools, but we hope to get some equipment.”
Rushwood Elementary obtained a robotics grant and converted a room that had been used as a storage space, Gaugler said.
“We have the intention now to continue, now that the levy has passed,” Gaugler said, referring to a 6.98-mill operating levy voters approved in May.
At Lee Eaton Elementary, library media/technology specialist Angela Wojtecki said Northeast Ohio Medical University’s BIOMED Science Academy helped inspire the makerspace.
She wrote a grant to create a mobile makerspace class based on what was available and taught at Nordonia Middle School.
“Lee Eaton doesn’t have a space where they can have a permanent makerspace,” she said.
Wojtecki said the mobile makerspace right now includes a couple of 3D printers.
Katherine Patterson, a third-grade teacher at Northfield Elementary, said the school moved an old book room elsewhere, and converted that room into a makerspace. The students have made items such as key chains but use of the devices have led to discussions about how 3D printers can be used to make items such as prosthetic hands.
However, the students are also “drawn to toothpicks and Play-Doh,” she added. “It’s not about what is in there, it’s about learning to build and teamwork. They practice their problem-solving skills.”
Rob Schrembeck, the principal at Lee Eaton Elementary, said that “duct tape is wildly popular.”
“It’s not all technology,” Schrembeck said.
Schrembeck said that the district’s PTA have grants have been used for makerspace materials, and money from the Nordonia Schools Foundation was used for the mobile makerspace.
He said the district has also approached the community for donations.
“We’re asking for donations of Legos and other things,” Schrembeck said.
Wojtecki said it would be nice to have sewing machines available in district makerspace areas.
“This exposes all students to these life skills,” Wojtecki said. She added that she has heard of districts making superhero capes to donate to the patients at Akron Children’s Hospital.
She noted that many public libraries are bringing in materials that can be used to enhance the experience in a makerspace, and some school districts have even converted part of their library space into makerspace or creative space areas.
“The libraries here are adding more makerspace book titles,” Wojtecki said. “A sixth-grader may not know about duct tape crafts, so the library brings in books on this, coding and how-to activities.”
At Ledgeview Elementary, Gaugler said, the school has started to make over a collaboration space for its students in its library.
Wojtecki said that the skills students learn in the makerspaces and creative spaces will impact their lives well after their school years.
“Colleges assume they are doing this,” Wojtecki said of college-age students. “It’s not just engineering. You may need to make a 3D model of a human jaw. It’s not like you do this in Nordonia, then you leave and not use it again.”
Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @AprilKHelms_RPC